Northern Forests Vulnerability

Assessment of forest vulnerability across the Northern Forests

Forests of the Midwest and Northeast significantly define the character, culture, and economy of this large region but face an uncertain future as the climate continues to change.

How are forests vulnerable to climate change?

Forests vary widely across the region, and vulnerabilities are strongly influenced by regional differences in climate impacts and adaptive capacity. Not all forests are vulnerable; longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures will increase suitable habitat and biomass for many temperate species.

Major findings

  • Upland systems dominated by oak species generally have low vulnerability due to greater tolerance of hot and dry conditions, and some oak, hickory, and pine species are expected to become more competitive under hotter and physiologically drier conditions.
  • However, changes in precipitation patterns, disturbance regimes, soil moisture, pest and disease outbreaks, and nonnative invasive species are expected to contribute forest vulnerability across the region.
  • Northern, boreal, and montane forests have the greatest assessed vulnerability as many of their dominant tree species are projected to decline under warmer conditions.
  • Coastal forests have high vulnerability, as sea level rise along the Atlantic coast increases damage from inundation, greater coastal erosion, flooding, and saltwater intrusion.
  • Considering these potential forest vulnerabilities and opportunities is a critical step in making climate-informed decisions in long-term conservation planning.

Download the assessment

Vulnerability of forests of the Midwest and Northeast United States to climate change (2018)

Summary (1 page)

Browse regional forest ecosystem vulnerability assessments

Climate change introduces uncertainty about future conditions, which creates additional challenges for land owners and natural resource managers who are interested in sustaining healthy forests over the long term. Understanding the potential impacts is an important first step to sustaining healthy forests in the face of changing conditions. Projected changes in climate and the associated impacts and vulnerabilities will have important implications for economically valuable timber species, forest-dependent animals and plants, recreation, and long-term natural resource planning. Find detailed regional assessments of climate change impacts, and forested ecosystems:


Information provided by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science's Climate Change Response Framework. Learn more about this resource and find more at